Staying Ahead of the Game: How to Prepare for Your Next Workday

“The best preparation for good work tomorrow is to do good work today.” –Elbert Hubbard, American writer and artist.

Staying Ahead of the Game:  How to Prepare for Your Next Workday  by Laura Stack #productivityYou might not be thinking of much more than getting home as you head out the door from work. After a long day in the office, it’s nice to get away, reboot the brain, and spend time with those you love. As the old song goes, it’s five o’clock somewhere. I totally get that! However, that doesn’t mean you can’t spend a little time prior to the end of your workday preparing for the next one. It’s logical, it saves times, it’s really easy, and it will give you an edge the next day.

Here are a few quick suggestions to help get ready for tomorrow, today!

1. Get your workspace in order. As the day starts to wind down, clean up your desk. File any stray papers or receipts in their appropriate files. Put tools, pens, and notebooks where they go. Wipe off any crumbs, corral the soda cans, toss the tissues, and clean your keyboard with a quick burst of canned air.

2. Look ahead. Do you have the call-in numbers for your meetings tomorrow? Do you have the directions to any off-site locations? If you need something special, like keys to a company vehicle, make sure you have them. Check for any audiovisual equipment you’ll need, to make sure they’re obtained and in place.

3. Prepare a to-do list. Look over what didn’t get done from your task list today (paper or electronic) and move them to the new date. Check your “Tomorrow” flag in your to-do bar and move any items you know you won’t have time to complete. Once you have one list, make decisions on what’s most important and move them in your list accordingly. Block an hour or so off your schedule to work on important tasks.

4. Prepare other people. Send reminders for any meetings or calls you’re leading tomorrow, along with the agenda and reading material to trigger their minds. That way, you hopefully won’t get “I forgot” as an excuse.

5. Put your subconscious mind to work. By thinking about tomorrow’s work in advance, you’re putting your brain on notice to prepare for it. Your subconscious mind will work on any problems while you sleep. If you’re like me, you may literally dream up a solution to a problem while you’re snoozing. Having thought about your day in advance sets you up for this natural problem solving benefit.

One Step Ahead

Granted, your whole day probably won’t be ruined if you don’t prepare for it the day before. But most successes, great and small, derive from advance preparation and reviews of what’s coming next. How many times you review or how much you prepare is up to you and your personality, but at least craft your to-do list and make yourself psychologically ready in advance. It never hurts to start out just a bit ahead, so you can either finish ahead of time—or better, use the time you’ve saved for whatever unexpected things fate and your co-workers throw at you.

© 2014 Laura Stack. Laura Stack, MBA, is America’s Premier Expert in Productivity™. For over 20 years, Laura has worked with business leaders to execute more efficiently, boost performance, and accelerate results in the workplace. Her company, The Productivity Pro, Inc., provides productivity workshops around the globe to help attendees achieve Maximum Results in Minimum Time®. Laura is the bestselling author of six books, with over 20 foreign editions, published by Random House, Wiley, and Berrett-Koehler, including her newest work, Execution IS the Strategy (March 2014). Widely regarded as one of the leading experts in the field of performance and workplace issues, Laura has been featured on the CBS Early Show, CNN, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times. Connect via her website, Facebook, or Twitter.



  1. And especially today, remember those who made our tomorrows possible 🙂

    • “Amen! Agree Sue! Today I’m especially grateful for the service of my father, U.S. Air Force Colonel (Ret.) Kenneth Wenker. To all veterans, thank you for your service to our country. You’ve made our freedom possible.”


  2. Lana McClellan says:

    My concern with #1 are people who use the first half hour of the day to get coffee, get settled, get their desks ready, etc and then the last half hour of the day to putter around when they could have their area ready in 10 minutes. Inefficient and unfair to the coworkers who are actually working during those times.

    • Lana, it’s amazing how much you can get done in the morning if you forego the normal “settling in” routines you’re describing! If people eat breakfast before coming to work, they wouldn’t need to waste time upon arrival. And I agree, people should get their coffee before they officially go “on the clock,” rather than taking a break right away when they should be working. You can get a lot accomplished in the first 30 minutes of a work day! But I wouldn’t worry about trying to change other people, as it’s fruitless, and it will only serve to make you bitter and resentful. Instead, focus on your own amazing work and take pride in the great results you’re able to create. Your work will speak for itself!

  3. Love the post. I shared it with my team. We all need reminders on how to get the job done efficiently every day. Thanks Laura.